March, the women’s history month, is long over, but inspirational women are never out of season. I come back to my favourite series of all and present another set of female role-models. They are examples worth following for you, your sisters, your daughters. I hope you to find it useful to read more about brave women you’ve already known something about and/or learn about fantastic females you’ve never heard of. Here’s the new golden 7 (and it certainly isn’t the last inspirational episode).
Ruth Bader Ginsburg – or Notorious R.B.G. as this SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) Associate Justice likes to be nicknamed. She studied at the Harvard Law School in the 1950s (and she was already a wife and a mother), where she was just 1 of 9 female students among more than 500 male students (girls were sometimes asked who dare they take places of well-educated men). She transferred to the Columbia Law School following her husband’s career (the story of their marriage is oh-so-fascinating) and graduated from this prestigious school in 1959. She worked as a university teacher, but also as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) general counsel and the founder of its Women’s Rights Project. At least since then she has been known for her liberal views and speaking up about liberties and equality. She fought discrimination for herself and for others. In 1980 she was nominated by President Jimmy Carter for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the most prestigious court after the SCOTUS. In 1993 President Bill Clinton nominated her for the Associate Justice of the SCOTUS (only the 2nd woman in history, after Sandra Day O’Connor). She has beaten cancer twice and she still exercises with a personal trainer. She is known for having naps at boring public events (never embarrassed of them J). She is a pop culture icon. A movie about the R.B.G., “On the basis of sex” with the one and only Felicity Jones, and a documentary titled “RBG” is due to hit the box office very soon. RBG is 85 and still unstoppable.
Irena Sendler – who doesn’t know this shero from the times of World War II and the Holocaust? Even before the war she fought against the discrimination of Jews and was an activist at the University of Warsaw (she was a deeply devoted Catholic herself) and later a social worker helping poor people in need. During the war, she organised a humanitarian aid for Jews (she was entering ghetto and providing a direct support on a daily basis) and co-created a network of good-will people that helped rescue some 2500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto. Every operation deserved a separate action movie, but Irena Sendler till the end of her life was dissatisfied with the number and kept underlining that she wanted to rescue many more children. In 1943 she was arrested and tortured by Gestapo, but she persevered and got freed. She was engaged as a nurse in the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. For years her story was kept in secret. The story of her life is breath-taking She was portrayed in a movie “The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler” by the Oscar-winning actress Anna Paquin (the movie was directed by John Kent Harrison).
Rosa Parks – if one searched for a heavyweight with strict principles, with values and ethics, here she is. Rosa Parks was an American, Afro-American human rights activist, a symbol of the fight against the racial segregation, an icon of the Civil Liberties Movement. She became an activist already in the 1930s, together with her husband, as members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The biggest moment of her activism, however, took place in Montgomery, Alabama, on Dec 1st, 1955, when she declined to give her seat to a white person on a bus. She got arrested, convicted and sentenced for a fine of 10 USD. Rosa Parks declined again and appealed. Because of that, she and her husband lost their jobs and were often threatened on streets. But they persevered and started a new chapter of the American history. In Dec 1956 the SCOTUS considered the racial segregation laws as unconstitutional. The case of Rosa Parks started a boycott movement of city buses in Montgomery. Martin Luther King was a leader of this boycott. It lasted for more than a year up until the SCOTUS sentence. Rosa Parks is a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a U.S. Congress Golden Medal laureate. There are Rosa Parks museum and library in Montgomery, AL.
Christiane Amanpour – whenever I go on a business trip, I watch international news services in my hotel room (not too much time for this with two toddlers at home…J). And whenever I see Christiane Amanpour broadcasts or interviews, I always watch them until the very last minute. She is the CNN anchor (with a short break for the ABC News) of British and Iranian roots, working for this TV station for more than 30 years. In the late 1980s, she reported the fall of communism from Germany. In the early 1990s, she broadcasted the Persian Gulf War (and co-created the “CNN effect”). Later she worked in Sarajevo in Bosnia (she was there and reported from the siege of the city) where she was responsible for reporting the Yugoslavia conflict. She has never been afraid of reporting from severe conflict zones, including Somalia, Rwanda and Pakistan. Now she covers mainly the Middle East issues, i.e. Syria, Israel and Iran and operates as her authorial programme’s “Amanpour” host mainly from her newsroom in NYC. Probably every world leader wants to be interviewed by her. And some were, exclusively, like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Jacques Chirac, Pervez Musharraf, Hassan Rouhani, Moammar Gadhafi, Emmanuel Macron, and others.
Maria Siemionow – a Polish transplant surgeon living and working in the U.S. She holds a doctorate from microsurgery and is a medicine professor. She emigrated to the U.S. in 1985 due to her scientific scholarship at the Christine Kleinert Institute in Louisville, KT. In 1995 she became the chief plastic surgery and microsurgery professor at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, OH. In Dec 2008, at the Cleveland Clinic, Professor Siemionow and her team conducted the 4th in the world and the 1st in the U.S. successful near-total face transplant. 80% of the face was transplanted, including jaw, nose, lower eyelid and cheeks. The patient regained the ability to breathe, eat and speak freely. Professor Maria Siemionow is the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland Laureate and received many professional awards, too. Maria Siemionow is now the Professor of Orthopaedics and Director of Microsurgery Research at the University of Illinois in Chicago, IL. She constantly cooperates with the Medical University in Poznań (Poland) and organises scientific scholarships for Polish young specialists. Professor Siemionow is the President of the American Society for Reconstructive Transplantation. Despite living in the U.S. for more than 3 decades, she speaks Polish with no accent (and she speaks 4 other languages, too).
Christine de Pisan – I heard of her extensively not so long ago in a wonderful BBC documentary series “The Ascent of Woman” (a must-watch! I saw it on NETFLIX, so whoever is eligible – please, please make another season and dig deeper into the history of women!), although she was portrayed also by Simone de Beauvoir. Christine de Pisan was the first European professional female literate and lived in the 14th and 15th centuries. She is often named the first feminist who fought against the misogynist attitudes and the Patriarchate. She can be called a renaissance activist for the engagement of women in the society, arts and science, not to mention politics. After the early death of her husband – and thanks to her good education (quite extraordinary for the women of that time) – she was a successful breadwinner for her children and herself. She earned money through writing love ballads for the royal court officials. What is more, she was not afraid to participate in discussions on literature and to debunk the way women were portrayed in leading pieces of literature of that time (she was a skilled orator). She also published her own philosophical and historical pieces: “The Book of the City of Ladies” and “The Treasure of the City of Ladies”, where she portrayed important women of the humankind history and encouraged women to engage in the life of the society. Christine de Pisan has also authored “The Poem of Joan of Arc”.
You, obviously 🙂 I decided to finish articles from this series always in the same manner – as you, girls who read this, are my eternal inspiration. I need to repeat and repeat and repeat these words: You, who care for your families, your relationships, yourselves every day. You, who sometimes have to fight for people and things that are dear to you. Single mothers who bring up children on their own and bravely make ends meet. Professionals struggling with the impostor syndrome. Scientists not discouraged in fulfilling their dreams despite being constantly unappreciated and underrated at work. Teachers, nannies, nurses who do priceless jobs but their salaries do not reflect that. Journalists and activists speaking up about women’s issues that are so uncomfortable for the guards of the status quo. You don’t have to make the headlines to be role-models. We – your friends and colleagues – are watching you and are proud of you!
This article is a part of the #girlpower series that includes also:
Podcast #1 Women Who Inspire – Nerds
Female Nobel Peace Prize Laureates
Where to search for data about women?